Sylvain Barrier has won the opening round of the 2012 FIM Superstock 1000 Championship at Imola after charging up the order in the final stages of a five lap sprint.

The Frenchman, the only previous race winner in the entire SSTK 1000 field, barely featured for much of the opener, settling into the chasing group during the early stages as his BMW Italia GoldBet team-mate Lorenzo Baroni and pole sitter Eddi La Marra tussled out front.

Getting away well from the start line, La Marra assumed the early running, the Italian heading the field on his Barni Ducati 1199 Panigale for the majority of the opening eight laps. Indeed, the only interruption came on lap three when Baroni scythed his way through, only for the BMW rider to run off the circuit at the final bend on lap four and be handed a subsequent ride-through penalty.

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However, just as La Marra appeared to have broken the chasing group, the red flag was deployed to clear the debris from a massive accident involving Heber Pedrosa, the Brazilian dropping his Kawasaki at high-speed coming into the final corner. Though the rider himself was unhurt, the ZX-10R clouted the end of the dividing barrier and was scattered across the circuit, necessitating a lengthy clean-up period.

With new regulations abolishing the aggregate rule and introducing a complete restart with a grid determined by the positions of the riders when the race was halted, it meant La Marra had Baroni (who was still to serve his ride-through penalty), Markus Reiterberger and Barrier for close company on the front row.

Despite this, La Marra got away well again, resisting the challenge of Reiterberger to assume his place at the front of the field, while ex-BSB rider Loris Baz, riding the MRS Kawasaki, manoeuvred himself into third place.

In fact, Baz was on the move, the Frenchman easing past Reiterberger and setting about overtaking La Marra, an objective he fulfilled on lap two with an inspired pass at Acqua Minerale.

Spurning the return advances of La Marra, Baz was looking good to hold on for his maiden victory, only for Barrier to appear unexpectedly with just three laps remaining. Indeed, the 23-year-old looked down and out after a poor getaway left him eighth initially, but he was comfortably the quickest rider during the closing stages as he cruised back to the head of the field.

Coming up to the lead group, Barrier quickly passed Reiterberger and La Marra before utilising his BMW's strong power curve to relieve Baz of the lead on the run up to the Variante Alta with just over a lap of the shortened race remaining.

It would prove the decisive move of an eventful race, Barrier holding on to claim only the second career SSTK 1000 victory of his career, ahead of countryman Baz, who gave Kawasaki its best class result since Brno 2009.

A disgruntled La Marra rounded out the podium on the new Panigale, while Reiterberger just missed out on the rostrum aboard the Alpha BMW.

Following his impressive turn on the Superbike stage at Phillip Island, Bryan Staring started his season well with a run to fifth on the Pedercini Kawasaki, ahead of Fabio Massei and former Moto2 rider Kev Coghlan, the Briton showing well on his series debut.

Lorenzo Savadori ran with the leaders initially before a clash with Baz dropped him back to an eventual eighth, while Tomas Svitok and Andrzej Chmielewski rounded out the top ten positions.

Further back, Baroni crossed the line in last position after serving his ride-through penalty, though the high attrition rate ensured he scored a solitary point in 15th.